CITY of York Council has been saved from abolition in a major shake-up of local government. 

Years of debate and divisions about devolution appear to have now ended with confirmation that a new single-county unitary is to be created in North Yorkshire.

The new 'super' council will operate alongside the existing unitary City of York Council.

The move has been announced tonight following approval from Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick. 

He said: “Residents, businesses and service providers in North Yorkshire have had their say on what will work best for their area and now councils can start planning for the next step.

“I have always been clear that any restructuring of local government must be locally-led and will not involve top-down solutions from Government. 

“These plans will help strengthen local leaderships and ensure residents of North Yorkshire are receiving the consistent high-quality services they deserve.”  

The alternative option had been to create two completely new authorities split on an east/west basis to replace the current two-tier system - with York merging with Ryedale, Selby and Scarborough councils in the east. 

The ultimate aim is to save money by bringing all council services, including highways, planning and education, under the control of a streamlined structure.

It has been described by many as a once-in-a-generation opportunity that should be grabbed.     

Cllr Keith Aspden, Liberal Democrat leader of York council, welcomed the news, and said: “Now we will get to work to access the investment that could be unlocked by devolution, which will benefit our communities and businesses and help facilitate a strong recovery.”

The locally-led plans are being taken forward, subject to Parliamentary approval, after a period of consultation which considered views from residents, business leaders and councils. 

The Local Government Secretary has asked the existing councils and their partners to work collaboratively and constructively together to drive forward the process of establishing unitary councils

York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership previously said a devolution deal for York and North Yorkshire could potentially unlock significant investment in the region.

This, they said, could include investment in York’s transport infrastructure, like Haxby station, investment in low-carbon technologies, more affordable housing, funding to boost tourism and investment in major schemes, like York Central.

Whitehall has been considering what form of local government was appropriate for York, ready to make its official announcement today, months after councils submitted bids highlighting their preferred option.

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The question about the city's future has come under intense scrutiny in recent months. 

York submitted its preference last autumn after seeking views from residents and other stakeholders.

Both York and North Yorkshire wanted to see all of North Yorkshire - apart from York - form one single, mainly rural, unitary authority, with York remaining independent as an urban unitary authority.

With a population of 210,000, York is already an average-sized unitary authority for England and supporters argued it does not need to be part of a larger body to be effective.

As a self-governing and historic city, York also believes it has unique characteristics and a distinct identity.

Other arguments in favour of that option focused on council tax which, in York, is among the lowest of any unitary authority in England, and significantly lower than neighbouring councils.

"Any merger with more expensive neighbouring authorities would require council tax levels to be harmonised," the council said previously.

Another argument put forward was that the cost of changing council boundaries so York merged with Selby, Ryedale and Scarborough would run into tens of millions of pounds.

Furthermore, there were concerns that any reorganisation could cause major disruption to services in a city with large pockets of inequality.

North Yorkshire County Council previously said that a single unitary authority for North Yorkshire, with an independent York, would ‘safeguard the current and well-established unitary council in the City of York, avoiding major disruption to services there at a critical moment in its history’.

The authority’s leader, Cllr Carl Les, said that getting rid of district councils would save up to £25 million every year.

As previously reported, as part of its devolution bid, York council asked the Government for:

A £64 million York Place Fund, including

£14 million for the York Station Frontage project

£10 million to deliver York Riverside Walkway

£28 million to deliver Phase 1 of York Castle Museum’s Castle Capital Project

£3 million to support York’s Cultural Strategy

£1 million of funding to transform secondary shopping areas

The authority was also hoping for a share of a £96 million Strategic Housing Investment Package to deliver new homes.

North Yorkshire councils spent almost £330,000 of taxpayers' money on consultants to help them fight their corner in the reorganisation of local government.

York council did not use consultants but spent £6,400 on an agency firm, as well as £5,500 on a market research organisation to conduct polling.

Subject to Parliamentary approval, it is expected that new councils would be fully operational from April 2023, with transitional arrangements and elections to the new structure set to take place in 2022.

York council is expected to continue to operate much as before.